Friday, July 9, 2010

MU blast update

"Report released on MU lab blast"


Mara Rose Williams

July 9th, 2010

The Kansas City Star

University of Missouri officials today released results of an investigation into a biochemistry laboratory explosion a week ago that left four people injured.

An accidental mix of hydrogen and nitrogen in a two-cubic-meter chamber caused the June 28 blast that blew out more than a dozen widows of Schweitzer Hall, the report said.

Investigators with the university and Columbia Fire Department concluded the gas was ignited by an unidentified source inside the chamber.

Those injured “all are doing well,” according to the report. One stayed one night in an area hospital.

Researchers in biochemistry Professor Judy Wall’s lab had been doing a routine setup of a microbiological anaerobic growth chamber to study bacteria that cannot live in the presence of oxygen.

The chamber is first filled with nitrogen and then small amounts of hydrogen are introduced into the chamber to remove any remaining oxygen. The valve for the hydrogen cylinder was accidentally left open.

The report noted a missing toggle switch in a “T-connection,” which is supposed to prevent nitrogen and hydrogen from being simultaneously introduced into the chamber. Both nitrogen and hydrogen entered the chamber and reached an explosive level.

Preventive changes include suspending the use of T-connections in such situations and replacement of pure hydrogen with a 95 to 5 mixture of nitrogen and hydrogen, said Christian Basi, an MU spokesman.

Another suggestion is using hydrogen and/or oxygen sensors that could withstand a corrosive atmospheric environment. Basi said refresher training for all laboratory personnel is already underway.

MU lab explosion update

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